Few things are more enjoyable than a good espresso, and it's even better when you can enjoy it at home—but there are a few things you should know before you start making espresso at home. We've already talked extensively about all the different types of equipment you can use to make espresso. Today we're going to talk about the other most important aspect of a good espresso: the beans.
First, let's start by answering some common questions:
Is There an Espresso Bean?
Many people assume that a specific type of bean has to be used for espresso, but virtually any type of coffee bean can be used.
What About an Espresso Roast?
There is no such thing as an espresso roast, but most people prefer using a dark roast for espresso.
What Are the Different Types of Coffee Beans?
There are actually over a dozen different types of coffee bean, but most are only sold locally. The vast majority of coffee traded around the world is one of two types, Arabica or Robusta.
Coffee Arabica is the original source of coffee, and for a long time it was the only type of coffee. These beans are distinguishable by their superior smell, darker appearance, and oval shape. They also have more flavor—and less caffeine—than Robusta beans.
Coffee Robusta was discovered in the late 19th century, when a particularly severe bout of disease decimated Arabica crops. Robusta beans have less flavor and more bitterness, but they are also able to grow in harsher conditions. They are distinguishable by their roundness.
Robusta's ability to grow in many different places and survive harsh weather patterns made it incredibly popular, and almost all supermarket coffee brands use Robusta beans, but you can still buy Arabica coffee beans in many places.
The Right Coffee Beans for Your Espresso
In the end, the right type of coffee for your espresso depends mostly on what aspect of that espresso you enjoy most. The vast majority of espressos are made with Robusta coffee, but you can make it with Arabica coffee just as easily.
There's only one caveat: Arabica coffee beans don't produce the same level of crema as Robusta. Many coffee houses get around this by using a blended coffee, as these are usually a mixture of Arabica and Robusta beans.
No matter what species of coffee bean you choose, you want to make sure the beans are high quality. Some of the most highly recommended beans for espresso include the Koffee Kult Dark Roast and Kicking Horse Coffee.
Whatever type of coffee you end up with, always buy whole coffee beans instead of ground coffee and keep anything you're not using right away stored in a vacuum sealed container. Even the best beans in the world will lose their flavor within a few weeks if stored improperly—and then your espresso is sure to disappoint.